Quick Profiles of Popular Ale Styles

Profiles of Popular Ale Styles

Bass Pale Ale

Hyougushi / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Ales are produced by top-fermenting yeast. Ale yeasts usually ferment at warmer temperatures than lager. They tend to ferment less efficiently than lager leaving more malt sweetness and flavor. They can sometimes contribute a fruitiness or spiciness to the flavor and aroma of beer. With such complexity, ales are generally more flavorful and often served at warmer temperatures. Here are some examples of popular ale styles.

Pale Ale

The modern beer drinker might wonder at the name pale for this beer. When it was originally produced, though, it was one of the palest beers available. Compared to stouts or porters the copper, amber or bronze color of this beer is still quite pale. With an equal balance of malty sweetness and bitter hops than many ales, this ale is a favorite among beer drinkers that are used to pilsner and other lagers.

Commercial examples of Pale Ale

  • Pyramid Pale Ale
  • Bass Ale

Homebrewer stats: OG: 1.045 IBU: 30-45

Brown Ale

Brown ales are popular for their drinkability and easy food pairing options. The nutty sweetness blends with subtle hopping and low alcohol for a smooth ale.

Commercial Examples of Brown Ale

  • Newcastle Brown Ale
  • Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale
  • Goose Island’s Hex Nut Brown Ale

Homebrewer stats: OG: 1.035 – 1.052 IBU: 12 – 30


Bitters are almost as various as ale itself with examples ranging from light brown to almost black. They are generally hoppier than brown ales but with a rich malty profile that competes nicely with the hops. Bitters are not bitter at all and are popular in English pubs though plenty of bottled examples are available, too.

Commercial Examples of Bitter

  • Fuller’s ESB
  • Goose Island Honkers Ale
  • Redhook ESB

Homebrewer stats: OG: 1.032 – 1.060 IBU: 25 – 50


This black predecessor to stout was created in London by blending brown ale with an old ale. It is marked by roasted and chocolate flavors. It is generally dry and well hopped. The style is popular with microbreweries and homebrewers.

Commercial Example of Porter

  • Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter
  • Bell’s Porter
  • Rogue Mocha Porter

Homebrewer stats: OG: 1.036 – 1.065 IBU: 18 - 50


Whether sweet or dry, stout is always a big beer with lots of roasted barley and coffee flavors. The black opaque ale is typically lower in hops than one might expect the roasted and coffee flavors offer a nice balance to the malty sweetness.

Commercial Examples of Stout

  • Young’s Oatmeal Stout
  • Guinness Extra Stout

Homebrewer stats: OG: 1.036 – 1.056 IBU: 25 – 45

Wheat Beer

Wheat beer, Hefeweizen, Weissbeir–this Bavarian specialty comes to us in many names and many variations but all have one thing in common, lots of wheat in the profile. Using wheat in the brew makes the flavor imparted from the grains relatively low. Combine this with light and subtle hopping and you might expect a rather boring beer. But a unique strain of yeast used during fermentation adds bananas and cloves to the nose and makes a cloudy, spicy drink.

Commercial Examples of Wheat Beer

  • Paulaner Hefe-Weizen
  • Sam Adams’s Hefe-Weizen

Homebrewer stats: OG: 1.044 – 1.052 IBU: 8 – 15 (Yes, I said 8 IBU!)


Barleywine is the monster of the beer world. With a massive malt profile and hopping to match, this style will leave your taste buds exhausted and begging for mercy. True beer lovers treasure a good barleywine.

Commercial Examples of Barleywine

  • Young’s Old Nick
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

Homebrewer stats: OG: 1.080 – 1.120 IBU: 35 – 120+